Monday, November 5, 2012

The Conversation


The Conversation. When I am asked to name the innermost fact of my Innermost Life, my answer is always the Conversation. The seed from which Innermost House grew and the seed I took from it, the soul out from which I am born each day and the peace into which I descend each night—all is the Conversation.

Pam and Leah, you wonder what it is we talk about all day. It is an excellent and perplexing question! In many ways it is the question at the heart of everything for me. It is perplexing because, as often as I am asked it, in all these years I have never known how to answer. 

Pam your especial interest is in the relation of the Conversation to silence. Leah you ask about topics. Together you give me a beginning.

I have always felt very comfortable with silence. That, I think, does not require much explanation. Silence is my native element. Somehow that appears to communicate itself even through the images of Innermost House. 
 
The emptiness is my part of the house. From the very start, guests and readers have remarked upon the emptiness of Innermost House. And yet it must be among the most densely furnished houses anywhere, enclosing hundreds of objects in a very small space. Still, there it is—the emptiness. 

Silence and Emptiness are not quite nothing. I thought they were—I thought I was—when more than thirty years ago I set off to outdistance everything. It was my husband who first heard something in my silence, something substantial in itself, something waiting to be recognized and cultivated. He heard a question waiting to be asked, and once I got started I never stopped asking.

So what I call the Conversation always begins with a question, and the question always begins with silence. It may appear to consist in questions and answers, but to me, the Conversation is ultimately between Silence and Words. Maybe silence becomes a question only in an answering presence.

I don't know how many questions I ask in a day. Dozens anyway. The questions are like so many Silences awaiting Conversation, and I experience the Conversations in a kind of ecstasy, so that afterward I can never remember the questions. I can rarely even remember the answers! 

It doesn't matter. It doesn't mean I am not trying. It is only that my experience of the presence of the Words takes up all present time for me and leaves no space at all for the future—no room for memory.

Sometimes at the farm I would emerge to greet visitors in the morning in a kind of daze. They would want to hear of my Conversations from the night before, and I could never tell them. I could not remember a word. The Conversation as I know it begins and ends in silence. 

But what happens? In my married Conversation, the silence is mine. From that silence arises a question. That question invites an exploration. Our explorations suggests more questions until the whole chaos and connection of meanings is explored. When all is wrought up to a tense silence of expectation, out from that silence arises a sort of soliloquy. 

I cannot speak much of the soliloquizing voice. It is my husband's voice and it is not exactly my husband. It is my answer and it is not mine. All the connections are taken up one by one in a way that is not exactly poetry or history or philosophy, or music or art or geometry, but somehow all of them at once. And from it emerges at last the essence of the whole Conversation, comprehending everything, justifying everything, forgiving everything. It is a wonder.

The Conversation is the furthest possible thing from social small talk on the one hand, and from academic discourse on the other. It is fragile and sensitive as a baby. It is impossible to forget. It is impossible to remember. It is almost impossible to believe. It is some consolation to me that our worldly and educated guests cannot describe the experience the next morning any better than I can!

You see how difficult it is to say what the Conversation is “about.” It is easier to say what it is not about. It is not about political or economic or social or really about any practical “issues” at all. It is not an expression of opinions. It certainly isn't gossipy or newsy.

It is not about theological or philosophical or scientific theories. It is not a debate and it is hardly even a discussion. It is not a teaching and it is not quite a learning. It is more like a state of being. I hope that makes some sense to somebody.

My first thought is to say that it is about everything. Not one thing after the next but all at once. Or perhaps it would be better to say it is about all things, or perhaps even about the allness of things.

It is as if every question takes it origin in being separated from the silence. And no matter what the question appears to be “about,” it is really about separateness itself. I am stretching as far as I can reach here, but I am speaking from such long experience, and I trust in you to take it up where you are.

The question is really about separateness itself. That is where it all begins for me. That is what I cannot understand. That is what I cannot accept. The separateness.

And so the answer that emerges as the Conversation is almost never an answer to what the question appears to be about. It is only unity that can answer separateness. It is as though the only real answer to every particular question—and I have asked them all—is universality. The connectedness of all things. Unity. That is the Conversation.

I can say something at least about the nature of the questions. In our married Conversation they mostly begin with me. In company they always begin with our guests. They are the kind of questions I ask all the time because I can't help it. But for most people, they are the kind of questions asked only in darkness. They are midnight questions—no matter what time of the day or night they are asked.

My marriage is a Conversation. For more than twenty years before the house came to be, we shared the Conversation between ourselves alone. Now again it is ours alone. 

For our seven years at Innermost House, the Conversation was transformed. By some miracle of unsought influence, the house we built to enclose our solitary Conversation made it possible for others to enter in to its spirit. It was so small. It was so hidden. It was so insignificant that somehow visitors were able to leave themselves behind on entering it.

I cannot help being what I am. Perhaps being what I am is a misfortune. But for others it is often very, very difficult to accept being less enough in themselves to let the Conversation happen.

Somehow it did happen around the fire at Innermost House. Perhaps it was the silence. Perhaps it was the strangeness. I cannot explain it.



13 comments:

  1. Diana,I see the silence and the emptiness a needed CONTRAST with the conversation. In many homes there is a hum and visual clutter that occupies ones time and thoughts. With Innermost there is contrast that makes for a beautiful canvas unto which the conversation happens. Like one of your beautiful asian scrolls.

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    1. WHY is it so hard for me to catch typos when I'm just writing in this tiny little box and can't see the whole text of my post? Aargh! Here's the proofread version of the deleted post above:

      Diana, I'm going to need to sit with your post and let it simmer and percolate and boil (there's that fire again!) until it whispers its message to me without using words, but for now what your description of the Conversation immediately brought to mind was the memory of all the times I sat listening to my guru speak. When she gave a formal talk, regardless of the topic, inevitably over half of the audience of several thousand people would quite rapidly descend into a deep meditation in which her words penetrated on a subliminal level, to be sure, but which weren't as important as the message that was imparted by the very essence of her silent state from which her words arose. When she'd finish speaking, we'd all come out of meditation not remembering a single thing she said (her words were like raindrops that landed in our hearts and formed one unified big puddle of silence!) but somehow always feeling that it was the silent Presence from which her words emerged that she really wanted us to remember and rest in. What we came to learn and experience was that the Guru's words were mantra--sacred syllables--regardless of what the surface message of those mundane words were, because they arose from the stillpoint and carried the charge of that supreme stillness with them. Her words were merely vehicles to help us quiet our linear minds so that we could drop our attention into our hearts and rest in the boundless silence that was the container for it all. You wrote: "But for others it is often very, very difficult to accept being less enough in themselves to let the Conversation happen", and I have seen the truth of that over and over in my own spiritual journey. Losing one's identification with the false self to finally rest in the true essence of the universal Self is a lifelong journey for most of us (except perhaps for rare souls like you who came into this life remembering what the rest of us have forgotten) in which gradually, over time, the knots of our misplaced identities are loosened enough to get ever-lengthening glimpses of the empty boundlessness which CONTAINS all things and INTERPENETRATES all things, and yet, is not any one specific thing in particular. I remember so well how at the end of my guru's discourses we'd all leave the hall feeling completely emptied of all the dross we had been carrying around with us as a result of our false identification with our bodies and our personalities and would feel that we had been left'gifted' with the sensation of being the 'container' and not the contents. What a liberating and cathartic gift!

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  3. I left a comment and somehow it vanished so I will try again. I believe it is love that facilitates the Conversation. With Innermost House, how could anyone not be affected by such a special relationship as Michael's and your's? Living so closely, so simply, so intimately... In the presence of such a deep love a person feels safe and reveals all their hopes and fears which were perhaps unknown to themselves. In the presence of love there is no room for lies or ego. There is no judgement. There is only the truth of love itself. We can fall in love with music, with the scent of a flower, with the sun on our face. The deeper the love, the deeper the truth.

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    1. Beautifully said, Sean. Love is all there is when fear is removed.

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  5. Editing and further contemplation issues again!

    "Silence and nothingness are not quite nothing." and "It was my husband who first heard something in my silence, something substantial in itself, something waiting to be recognized and cultivated. He heard a question waiting to be asked, and once I got started I never stopped asking.
    So what I call the Conversation always begins with a question, and the question always begins with silence."

    Diana, what you are describing as the silent question you posit at the beginning of any Conversation sounds to me like Presence, that pregnant, wordless feeling of potentiality, the kinetic stillpoint between the formless and form. Is this what you mean by the 'question'? Is that silent resting in Presence and waiting for the formless aspect of the Divine to burst forth into form launch the beginning of the Conversation? Is the end goal of any Conversation the silent surrender to the paradox and mystery of existence itself? Are Michael's words the expression of That which arises naturally from the empty yet full moment of potentiality in the heart without first being filtered through the linear processing of the mind's organizational skills? Is the point of the Conversation not about a verbal discussion at all, but actually the practice of experiencing the interpenetration of the silence within the words, regardless of the content of the discussion? Is the Conversation the call and response of Love loving Itself? Does the Conversation come full circle and end when Silence becomes words and then words eventually naturally dissolve back into the Silence? Am I even getting close to understanding what you mean by the Conversation?

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  6. This post reminds me strongly of the struggle of mystics to explain their experience that is inherently beyond words. It seems to me that the Conversation is an adventure in inter-personal mysticism - no; an interpersonal adventure into mystery, for it isn't small enough to be any kind of 'ism'.

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  7. http://www.gutenberg.org/catalog/world/readfile?fk_files=2758436

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    1. "..We learn from these records that the
      mystical consciousness has the power of lifting those who
      possess it to a plane of reality which no struggle, no cruelty, can
      disturb: of conferring a certitude which no catastrophe can wreck.
      Yet it does not wrap its initiates in a selfish and otherworldly
      calm, isolate them from the pain and effort of the common life.
      Rather, it gives them renewed vitality; administering to the
      human spirit not--as some suppose--a soothing draught, but the
      most powerful of stimulants." -- I only read a little into this book, but interesting so far. The idea of transcending the struggle and cruelty of life as it is perceived, is certainly the premise of meditating and also, it would seem the Marriage and Conversation of Diana and Michael. Thanks for sharing!

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  8. Diana, you wrote: "The question is really about separateness itself. That is where it all begins for me. That is what I cannot understand. That is what I cannot accept. The separateness."

    Diana, have you ever tried to include in your heart and mind the separateness that you 'don't understand' into the wholeness of the One thing that you DO, so that you, yourself, do not separate out the separateness from the unity?

    Separateness reflects its opposite, Unity, by its very juxaposition in the scheme of the pairs of opposites which is also an integral part of the One Thing. I'm paraphrasing here, but God looked upon all He had made and saw that it was good. That includes the illusion of separateness which is still an integral part of the whole.

    There's a neat Sanskrit word 'chidvilasananda' which means 'the bliss of the play of Consciousness'. Part of that play of Consciousness, I think, (and I'm anthropomorphizing here) is Consciousness pretending on the surface level that there are concrete differences between the 10,000 things and then allowing these things to interact with each other until they finally 'get' that on the FORMLESS level, it's just a game. You don't need to accept separateness by beating your head against its brick wall and capitulating to a belief system that you know to be false, but merely to ACCEPT the paradox that separateness exists as an illusion within the unified wholeness. While others believe at the level of the body that separateness is true, this in no way negates the ultimate Truth that beyond the surface differences of form, the formlessness from which the 10,000 things spring and to which they will return, is the same in every single object in this Universe.

    It's all a matter of where anyone chooses to place their attention--inwardly or outwardly. 99% of the world's population at any point in history will direct their attention outwardly and believe what their senses are telling them without ever going deeply inside to test whether their assumptions are true. Because YOUR outward attention springs from an already developed inward place of Unity it may be frustrating to you to live in a world that believes in separation. However, that should in no way prevent you from resting in That which you know to be true in the very marrow of your bones, no matter how hard anyone tries to get you to believe as they do or to act from that illusory place of separateness.

    You apparently were born with the palpable, kinesthetic awareness that the formless support of the universe is the same in each and every thing and that is where your mind, heart and body rest. You KNOW beyond a shadow of a doubt that separation is a game, and you can play along with this game or not. But, if you choose not to (and why would you want to regress to that misunderstanding of self/object, after all?) then remember that your inability to play along with the game is also simply another level of separation that is strictly an illusion as well. Allow EVERYTHING into your heart with complete welcome and delight, including the game of separation (without necessarily wanting or needing to play it!), and your non-acceptance and resistance will end. This is the life purpose for each of us and for which we have been born, and yet most people will never reach this inner certitude in their current lifetime. Call it a blessing or a curse, but know that you are way ahead of the pack in recognizing humanity's ultimate destiny.

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    1. Thank you for this insight, Pam - I wholeheartedly agree. I understand Diana's frustrations at the perceived separateness in the world because people with high sensitivities or who are empaths (which many of us are) have to learn to recognize these emotions, and this case the crazy mix of discontent in our society, and not take on the emotions of others.. We can recognize them, accept that they belong to someone else, and not allow them to affect our daily outlook.

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  9. I think ultimately the "conversation" may be a quest to explain your place in life. I may be wrong about this. Life is a mystery. We can all agree on this one statement. And it is even further a mystery because of our inner perceptions on it. I just had a discussion today with my husband about feeling like a black sheep. I feel somewhat out of place from all the world has to offer at times. This feeling in itself is hard to define or explain. I think a smaller environment equates to a more predictable and controlled life. This is what ultimately brings us to some state of contentment is when we in fact can control our lives to a certain degree. And sometimes when we are tested too harshly in the "artificial world" ( I'm going to call it the artificial world simply because I view it as that), we begin to understand that our spirits are now out of sync with our true calling and purpose. We see straight through the world that holds money, greed, violence, all the bad things. We want to then separate ourselves from this because our spirits are now in tune to it to the point it makes us feel like we must escape from it. It is not what we wish to be or be apart of but rather, we want to know the answers and discover a different type of experience on earth. I have often dealt with feeling like I just don't fit in with the rest of the world. I almost feel like an abandoned child at an orphanage. Always searching for my birth parents. Always wanting answers that usually start with "Why"...

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